Fr. Dwight Longenecker is telling his readers to “Prepare for the Rise of the Right.” To be frank, I don’t know what to make of it. By describing a potential trajectory of ascent for a political leader of the Right, is Longenecker merely making a positive analysis or is he longing for such a figure himself? He wants his readers to “watch and be alert,” though not for the purposes of resisting the Right. In fact, the only warning Longenecker gives runs as follows:
Faithful Catholics owe John Zmirak a debt of gratitude. Not only did he put the term “illiberal Catholicism” into circulation, thus giving folks such as myself a convenient self-descriptor, he continues to serve as a shining example of what happens when you blend a superficial understanding of Catholicism and Christian history with an unabashed love for liberalism and all of its works. His latest, “The Myth of Catholic Social Teaching,” attempts no nuances nor dabbles in distinctions when it comes to rejecting Catholic Social Teaching (CST). He just does it. Unfortunately Zmirak’s “reasoning” is old hat. Starting from the (correct) premise that not everything a pope says or writes carries magisterial force, he then moves to the erroneous conclusion that nothing (or practically nothing) in CST requires assent — absolute, religious, or otherwise. CST is nothing more than the private opinions of certain popes which are subject to change over time. To help bolster his claim, Zmirak points to apparent shifts in papal teachings on usury, torture, and slavery without reflecting on the context from which those teachings — or changes in teaching — emerged. Indeed, Zmirak goes so far as to claim that Dignitatis Humanae overturned the Church’s previous teaching on religious liberty, thus demonstrating — whether he knows it or not — his acceptance of the “hermeneutic of rupture” thesis. I doubt that would bother Zmirak much. He, like most Catholic liberals, depends on rupture to give his socio-political ideology a jumpstart without being inconvenienced by any incongruities which might exist between it and the Church’s teachings on faith and morals.
Over the next week I plan to make some updates and improvements to the blog while also loading up fresh content. If you catch an error, such as a broken link or ill-working widget, please bring it to my attention. After much resistance, I finally created a real “About” page (of sorts). The first of several generously donated images has now replaced the dull, grey background that several readers rightly chided me for. I am steadily expanding the “Blogroll” and “Sites of Interest” links. If you happen to link to this blog and I haven’t linked you back, it’s not out of ingratitude; I am just slow-moving with these things. And as always, if you have any suggestions for improving Opus Publicum, I am all eyes.
Going off a thought when I wrote “More Things to Read,” on Fridays or Saturdays I will post a “roundup” of things that caught my eye the previous week which a few of you may find interesting. Some of this material probably warrants a good deal of commentary, but my time, as usual, is limited. As always I thank anyone and everyone who, via this blog, Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail, keep my eyes and mind occupied while confirming that not everything on the Internet is worthless.
There seems to be something going around on web-logs and social media concerning ten (or so) books which people consider personally important and/or exerted considerable influence upon their thinking. Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, for instance, has posted hers; my Facebook feed is filled with at least a dozen more such lists. Because I would hate to feel left out from the fun, I offer below my own ten titles (well eleven) with the preliminary remark that I am in considerable less agreement with these books now than when I first read them. In a sense they represent stepping stones on my less-than-linear journey to wherever I happen to be today. I have purposefully left off a large number of “Great Books” which everyone who is capable should try and digest at some point in their lives (e.g., Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and so forth). I have also left off any and all explicitly Catholic works, mainly because I plan to dedicate another post to them in the future. I imagine that some of you will be surprised by at least one or two title that pops up on the list below. I am not, for the time being, adding any explanations. Enjoy, and feel free to share yours if you are so inclined.
John C. Wright, a sci-fi novelist, has come out swinging against Distributism — or, more accurately, a certain caricature of G.K. Chesterton’s presentation of Distributism — over at his private web-log here. (Not surprisingly Joe Carter over at the Acton Power Blog has highlighted the piece.) Wright begins by highlighting two things: (1) He has studied economics “for many a year” (how many he doesn’t say, and what brand of economics is not disclosed); and (2) Chesterton’s pronouncements on Distributism are vague. With respect to the first point, it comes across as a lame attempt to assert intellectual superiority without actually going through the effort of demonstrating as much. In fact, nothing in Wright’s post shows that he has any more sophistication with economics than someone who has scanned a neoliberal tract which states, mantra-like, that the wealthy create wealth; that they deliver unprecedented value to society at large; and that any thought that the wealthy, as a class, would cooperate to maintain their position at the expense of other classes in society is absurd on its face. All of those claims are, of course, contestable. While Chesterton’s prose, hyperbolic and reactionary though it could be at times, doesn’t rise to the level of a social-scientific case against unfettered capitalism, it does marshall a powerful moral case against the miseries and degradation Chesterton witnessed first hand in early 20th C. England. Chesterton may be no economist, but it doesn’t appear as if Wright is much of one either.
In an earlier post, “Neoconservatism and Conceptual Clarity,” I discussed the first part of Artur Rosman’s interview with Patrick Deneen over at Ethika Politika. Today the second part of that interview was published. In it, Deneen has some strong words for those Catholics (and other Christians) — such as those associated with the Acton Institute — who denounce the possibility of a third way beyond capitalism and socialism/communism. (On the matter of “third ways,” see my earlier post here.) Here is a sample of Deneen’s thoughts concerning this line of thinking as it is applied to Distributism:
Joe Carter, writing on the Acton Institute Power Blog, expresses skepticism toward the results of a recent Pew survey which purportedly reveals that approximately one-in-ten Americans describe themselves as libertarian. That would be frightening if true, but thankfully it isn’t — or so says Carter. Carter’s rightful concern is that a significant portion of those surveyed hold views which are contrary to libertarian orthodoxy, such as “say[ing] that government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest” or holding that public assistance to the poor “does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met.” Carter believes that this is proof that most people don’t understand the political labels they apply to themselves. Maybe. Or maybe it’s because political reality, like economic reality, is a bit messier than some would like and not all of the world can be packaged into an ideological box; sometimes experience and reflection interfere with ideological purity.
If we, traditional Catholics, stop talking about the Second Vatican Council, will the liberals? How about the neo-Catholics? I don’t mean “never mention the Council again.” Rather, I mean going on almost endlessly — and negatively — about this-or-that ambiguity in the conciliar texts or this-or-that problematic interpretation, implementation, or downright imposition in the name of the “Spirit of the Council.” Despite the hopes of some traditionalists, Vatican II is not simply going to go away. I suspect that most would prefer that, given present realities, our current Pope refrain from calling another council to “update,” “discuss,” or “clarify” Vatican II. Let it rest. It has only been 50 years. And while there may be a good argument out there that the last five decades has sucked dry the Council’s relevancy, that doesn’t mean it needs an official point-by-point overhaul either. To attempt one now would likely lead to further, not less, ambiguities. Moreover, it seems as if the present leadership of the Church is even more divided and, in some instances, doctrinally suspect than the body of fathers who came together in October 1962 to inaugurate a new “springtime for the Church.”
His Beatitude Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), has issued an open letter concerning the situation in Ukraine and the persecution of Greek and Roman Catholics, along with Protestants and non-Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox, in the so-called “separatist region” of the country. The letter also addresses the stream of invective which has been flowing out of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) recently. Here is an excerpt: